Stemming from immense government investment in scientific research during World War II, the Energy Department's national laboratories have served as the leading institutions for scientific innovation in the United States for more than seventy years. Today, 17 national laboratories address large-scale, complex research and development challenges with a multidisciplinary approach that translates basic science to innovation.
The Water Power Technologies Office (WPTO) funds several national labs to conduct early-stage research to accelerate innovative water power technologies. The national labs also work with industry, academia, and many other stakeholders to solve scientific challenges while providing test facilities, sophisticated instrumentation, and deep expertise.
National Laboratories with Water Power Expertise
Argonne National Laboratory
Multidisciplinary teams of scientists and engineers at Argonne National Laboratory (ANL) are advancing basic energy science, focusing their research and development on a broad portfolio of sustainable and clean energy technologies. In water power, ANL has developed detailed models of advanced pumped-storage hydropower (PSH) plants as well as new methods and tools for optimization and valuation of hydropower resources. Major water power research areas include:
- Environmental analysis and assessment
- Systems and integration analysis
- System, plant, and generating unit performance optimization
- Modeling and simulation
- Power market analysis.
Idaho National Laboratory
Idaho Falls, Idaho
While Idaho National Laboratory (INL) is the nation’s leading center for nuclear energy research and development, INL applies a considerable depth of expertise in electrical power generation and distribution systems to challenges associated with renewable energy development, including grid development, mechanical design, reservoir assessment and monitoring, and advanced control systems. Major water power research areas include:
- Dynamic system modeling and analysis
- Technologies and resource assessments
- Grid value analysis
- Advanced control systems
- System integration.
National Renewable Energy Laboratory
For more than 40 years, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has advanced the science and engineering of energy efficiency, sustainable transportation, and renewable power technologies. NREL supports the responsible deployment of hydropower through research in grid optimization, regulatory roadmapping, and economic analysis. NREL also supports the marine energy industry by leveraging vast experience gained in wind and water power research and development, along with established testing capabilities and facilities. Major water power research areas include:
- Laboratory and field technology validation and optimization
- Power system design and market value analysis
- Turbine and generator electrical and mechanical system design
- Industry workforce and educational development
- Market barrier mitigation research, analysis, and outreach.
Oak Ridge National Laboratory
Oak Ridge, Tennessee
With 4,750 staff, Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) conducts research in nuclear technologies, clean energy, and super computers. In water power, ORNL is focused on maintaining and sustaining the existing fleet of hydropower assets, increasing the supply of sustainable low-cost hydropower generation and services, and enhancing public and private capabilities to balance environmental and hydropower production objectives. Major water power research areas include:
- Component and project design, optimization, and simulation
- Resources measurement, monitoring, and modeling
- Materials science and advanced manufacturing
- Economic analyses and modeling
- Environmental impacts assessment.
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
Since 1965, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) has translated scientific discoveries into tools and technologies for science, energy, the environment, and national security. Energy researchers focus on issues from grid modernization and building controls to providing scientifically defensible solutions for legacy waste. Work in water power includes development of fish-friendly hydropower turbines, wave energy characterization, and advanced sensor systems that track animal-technology interactions. Major water power research areas include:
- Technology design, evaluation, and validation of environmental performance
- Valuation, market analysis, and grid integration
- Advanced materials and coatings
- System-scale modeling and analysis
- Knowledge management, synthesis, and dissemination
Sandia National Laboratories
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Keeping the U.S. nuclear stockpile safe, secure, and effective is a major focus of Sandia National Laboratories (Sandia), but the labs also support a secure energy mix by enabling an uninterrupted and enduring supply of energy from domestic sources, while assuring the reliability and resiliency of energy infrastructure. In water power, Sandia developed tools for optimizing the performance of the U.S. hydropower fleet with minimal environmental impact and worked to improve the power performance and reliability of marine energy technologies. Major water power research areas include:
- Nonlinear controls development
- High-fidelity modeling
- System design and testing
- Resource characterization
- Environmental modeling and cost analysis.
How to Work with the National Labs
The Energy Department’s national labs have strong partnerships with industry, government, academia, small businesses, international, and nonprofits to advance the research and development of U.S. water power. Whether an organization wants to partner with a lab to solve a specific problem, access unique testing facilities and instrumentation, or learn more about research and development opportunities available, more information about partnerships can be found on each lab’s partnering, technology transfer, or commercialization web pages.